You’ve decided to read my blog so thank you, but more importantly, I hope I show you how amazing studying abroad in Sweden is!
- Arrival Day/ Orientation period
August 18th 2015- The start of my biggest adventure to date; becoming an Erasmus student at The University of Lund. The university did its upmost to make all ‘newbies’ feel included. This included a relaxed orientation period, filled with parties, trips, such as to a wildlife park, and yes some work (but only an optional Swedish introductory course; so don’t worry you can avoid work at the beginning!).
2. Getting Around
As a student in Lund it is essential you can ride a bike. These can be picked up for less than £100 and sold back at the end of your semester. I will warn you in advance the police take not having bike lights very seriously as well as having more than one person riding a bike (£50+ fine). However if you can beat the record of 5 on a bike they’ll let you off the fine- if you manage that I’m very impressed, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
3. Mentor Group 5
A good way to socialise and get to know your new surrounding was through the universities international mentor scheme. Mentors organised group activities, with students from across the globe. These included a trip to a nearby beach, as well as a traditional Swedish treasure hunt on a grand scale; 20 of us running around in search of clues all over Lund! A must for all new students!
4. Student ‘Nations’
Lund University is unique from British Universities, because it has student ‘nations’, which you join within your first month at the university. The nations are almost as old as the university itself, originating from 1668 onwards. There are over 10, with varying associations including food and music. Nations are difficult to describe to ‘non-students’, but think of them as social societies, not associated to your academic side of university. They are run by students, and provide the cheapest food and drinks in Lund (so yes you can drink on a budget). All nations have club nights, so there’s no getting bored of the party scene here. While on the subject of alcohol, you can’t legally buy alcohol from shops in Sweden unless you’re 20 (annoying), but you can buy it when out from the age of 18. Once you’re 20 your new best friend might just be ‘Systembolaget’- yes Sweden still has what is essentially an off licence and the only place you can buy alcohol above 4% from.
5. ‘Novisch’ Period
The nations also run a month long ‘Novisch’ period. During this time many events are organised to introduce new members. This event is ended with a traditional Swedish ‘sittning’. A sittning is a 3 course dinner, including lots of alcohol, singing and speeches made by the nation presidents, and ends with a club event- I can highly recommend!
6. The work begins- Lectures
Although there is a lot of socialising here, it’s not all fun and games, we all have to work too. At Lund, each semester you will take up 2 courses. These run for 2 months each, one after the other. Although a physical geographer, I took classes in Quaternary Geology while here. My first was glacial geology and the latter palaeoecological methods and environmental analysis. Contact time is much greater than Liverpool, with lectures beginning at 9.15 everyday and usually ending at 4 or 5 (I know we all complain at one 9am in Liverpool, but you get used to it). Compared to Liverpool the geology courses here are more field intensive- in just 3 months I’ve been on 6 trips! Plenty of opportunity to see what Sweden has to offer. The highlight for me had to be the first field trip to Finse, Norway. This was a 6 day excursion in which 17 of us, lead by Per Moller (an experienced mountaineer and all round inspiring professor), summited the Hardangerjøkulen ice cap. During the trip he even took us ice climbing down a crevasse, although afraid of heights I had to do it, but I’m so glad I did! Swedes certainly don’t worry about health and safety like they do in the UK…
So maybe you’re beginning to think it’s all work and no play, but that is certainly not the case. Train travel is cheap in Sweden compared to the UK, so it is a great excuse to travel. The highlights for me have been Gothenburg and Helsingborg- both cities with unique history and culture. Closer to Lund and just 10 minutes by train is Malmo, a great place to go for some retail therapy. It also has an ice hockey arena, which has to be a must see for the complete Swedish experience. Across the border in Denmark you also have Copenhagen under an hour away, a fantastic city, especially at Christmas.
8. Common Misconceptions
- ‘Alcohol is expensive’- Somewhat true if you drink out, pints average at £4, but if you drink at a nation you can buy one for less than £2!
- ‘Swedes are naturally blonde’- look closely and most are from a bottle.
- They love Abba- disappointingly its hardly ever played!
- Everyone drives Volvos- mostly true, but you do see other cars.
Top 10 facts about Sweden
- Get used to being greeted with the words ‘Hej hej!’.
- Swedes live for ‘fika’, essentially coffee and cake or more commonly the Kanelbulle-Cinnamon bun’.
- Lunch is always 12pm sharp.
- Its bikes you have to look out for not cars.
- Once you’ve said pardon, Swedes will happily speak to you in English.
- You know somethings gone wrong when the swedes in your group speak Swedish between each other.
- Swedes love ‘ecological’ food, basically organic.
- They love to recycle, minimum 5 bins in every room.
- It really does get dark by 3.
- Just like us brits the Swedes also love to complain about the weather, which may I add is very similar to the UK; wet, windy and cold most of the time.
So I hope this brief account of life as a Swedish student has persuaded you that Sweden is the place for you. I can honestly say I’ve been having the time of my life.
By Diana Lilley (Year 2 BSc Geography)